Ahmedabad Mirror
New Delhi

Taking a serious view of candidates facing serious criminal charges contesting various polls in the country, the Election Commission of India (ECI) has proposed that such candidates be barred from elections. It has also suggested that filing false affidavits be made a ground for disqualification. "The Commission has made a proposal to the Law Ministry (that) at least in such criminal cases where the (minimum) punishment is imprisonment of five years, if a person is accused of that and if charges have been framed by the competent magistrate at least six months before the scheduled date of election, they should be disqualified from contesting elections," Chief Election Commissioner V S Sampath said on Monday.

The EC's proposals to cleanse public life have been recommended to the government, and come after the Supreme Court's intervention following which those convicted of serious offences were instantly disqualified from being MPs and MLAs. Sampath said the proposal of the poll panel has been referred by the Law Ministry to the Law Commission, which is working on making recommendations on electoral reforms. He said a "safeguard" has also been proposed to prevent misuse of the provision. The provision of barring persons from contesting polls will apply only in cases where charges have been framed for the alleged crime six months before the announcement of elections. According to a survey of MPs and legislators conducted by Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) and National Election Watch (NEW) in 2013 — based on affidavits filed by candidates during elections since 2004— about 30 per cent of Lok Sabha members and 17 per cent of Rajya Sabha members had criminal cases pending against them.

The list was topped by Shiv Sena members, the report said. Atotal of 8,790 affidavits filed by MPs and state legislators were analysed, and the report found 14 per cent members of the previous Lok Sabha had "serious criminal cases" against them. Seventy-five percent of the offending MPs and state legislators were elected on Shiv Sena tickets since 2004, followed by the Rashtriya Janata Dal at 46 per cent. The Congress and BJP accounted for 22 and 31 per cent each.

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